“Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.” — Charlotte Mason
LITERATURE-BASED EDUCATION – The Covenant Christian School curriculum exposes children to whole works of literature, poetry, and scripture. We believe that reading skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics, and use of sight words are best taught in the context of quality literature. Students are led to understand letter-sound relationships, word patterns, and word families as they read and are being read to from “living books.” Most content area subjects are taught through literature, as well.LIVING BOOKS – works that possess certain literary qualities “able to bring that sensible delight to the reader which belongs to a literary word fitly spoken.” (Charlotte Mason) They are most often original works of high literary quality that deal directly with the subject at hand in an interdisciplinary way and may be fiction, biography, a primary source, or other expository text.
The purpose of using living books is to feed children‘s minds on ideas from the directly articulated experiences and ideas of predecessors and contemporaries, and in so doing, be naturally exposed to correct grammar, spelling, and other mechanics of written language, as well as the precision and range of a complex vocabulary.
NARRATION – The act of telling back, or recounting, the passage read after only one hearing or reading. This retelling is not a random recall or a summary, but a thorough recount from beginning to end, point for point and event for event, using a significant amount of the structure and language of the author formulated in the students’ own words. Narration requires the use of the imagination. It gives students the occasion to use correct and complex language structures (vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar) beyond what they are able to generate on their own. Narration necessitates the giving of one‘s undivided attention to the reading, allowing the student to tell what he or she has just attended to confidently and successfully. Students’ retellings show evidence of their understanding of new vocabulary and new ideas. Kindergarten through second-grade students narrate orally or through pictures. Third graders begin the transition into written narrations.
BOOK OF CENTURIES – a student created book that focuses on important events and/or characters studied in the history curriculum. After a thorough study of a person, place or event, students write a narration about and illustrate the topic that has been studied.
CLASSROOM TIME LINES – a chronological display of dates that correspond with significant events pertaining to the studies of the students marked by appropriate pictures, illustrations, or objects and placed by the teacher on the walls of the classroom. The purpose of the Time Line is to give the students a sense of the flow of history and the relationship between specific events that are contemporary to a time period. Students develop the habit of seeing those events in the context of their occurrence.
COMPOSER STUDY – the practice of systematically exposing students to great musical works through audio recordings and live performances and teaching them about the lives of the artists who created these works at the same time. The purpose of the practice of Composer Study is to instill in familiarity with and appreciation of a wide range of musical compositions and to bring the student in touch with the lives behind those works. Listening to and appreciating beautiful music will hopefully become lifelong practices.
COPYBOOKS – permanently bound texts transcribed by the students. A copybook entry can be drawn from a beautifully written passage of Scripture, literature, poetry, primary source or lyric. They are the means by which ideas from a variety of living sources are digested and assimilated by the mind of the student. The purpose of these student-built texts is to train students in the habit of careful attention to details that make for finished and correct pieces that show a focused study of a given subject. Copybook entries document a breadth of experiences, texts, and media used to impart a topic of study. They give evidence of students’ best effort and proficiency in writing, drawing, and expressing ideas of a given study.
NATURE STUDY – the practice of giving focused attention to the beauty and design of nature in order that they may better know the Designer. In her book, Ourselves, Charlotte Mason says, “From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim. Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.” Nature Study is taking time to look. From Romans 1:20 we receive the command from God to know Him not only through the special revelation of the Holy Spirit but also through the things He has made, i.e. natural revelation. The character and divine attributes of Christ can be seen in all He has made so much so that men cannot be excused for their unbelief as they are all exposed to some degree to nature. It would, therefore, derive that greater exposure, observation, and study of nature may increase our knowledge of God. Students participate in Nature Walks – a time of quiet observation by experiencing and noting examples of God‘s creativity by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and sometimes tasting; and record in Nature Journals – notebooks contain nature paintings of specimens collected on Nature Walks or other objects supplied by the teacher.
PICTURE STUDY – the consistent practice of bringing students’ eyes before the great artists and their works. The purpose of Picture Study is to provide students with an inner gallery of art and a joyful familiarity with the great masters. This is accomplished by bringing students to careful observation, recollection, and reflection upon works of art that span eras, styles, and content, and exposing them to artists’ development, thoughts, and technique throughout the school year.
STUDIED DICTATION – the practice of writing down a portion of what one has transcribed earlier in the week. This is done with accuracy and efficiency, as it is read aloud slowly by the teacher. The practice of dictation trains students to work carefully, thoroughly, and attentively, using their eyes to take in the conventions of printed language and submitting their minds to thoughts outside their own. In the early grades, short passages should be transcribed on Monday and dictated later in the week. For Grades 4 and up, increasingly longer passages may be given. The teacher chooses passages for transcription and dictation from texts the students are currently using in their classroom studies. Dictation lessons support the development of correct spelling and punctuating by sight.
(Reference: The Childlight Teachers’ Instructional Guide, 2008)